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Georgia Black Friday crowds raise question of worker safety

A Georgia Walmart store could have easily become the site of an accident on the day after Thanksgiving, known as "Black Friday" throughout the country. For the employees on hand that day, potential workplace accidents were narrowly averted during a Black Friday deal that excited crowds at a Moultrie store.

The frenzied shoppers were anticipating a cell phone deal that offered a prepaid, unlimited plan. A Walmart spokesperson noted the "excitement" among customers, but also stressed the fact that it was an isolated incident.

However, video of the event has circulated widely on the internet, shows a barely-contained mass pushing and shoving over a limited supply of products.

Other retail locations weren't so lucky on Nov. 23. At an Urban Outfitters store in Santa Monica, California, hordes of customers smashed a glass door. Store personnel had to clean up shards of glass and several people reported injuries that required treatment by paramedics.

In Arizona, stores have amplified their security in an effort to avoid altercations. Last year, when police in that state were subduing a mob-like group, a grandfather was rendered unconscious, showing that even well-intentioned attempts at crowd control can have collateral damage.

Perhaps the most notorious Black Friday episode, however, occurred back in 2008. A rush of shoppers literally trampled to death a New York Walmart worker, just 34-years-old at the time. Other employees in that incident received injuries as well.

In Georgia, when an employer has over three people workers' compensation insurance is a requirement, not an option, for that employer. At the big box retail stores that see the most action on Black Friday, hundreds of employees can be on the payroll.

As a result, workers injured on Black Friday should not assume the unique conditions of the day override their rights under the law. These workers are entitled to the protections of workers' compensation just like other employees.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Walmart: Georgia frenzy 'led to excitement,' no injuries," Nov. 23, 2012

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